By Ismail AbdulAziz
Nigerian pilgrims currently on hajj are being given balanced diets to assist them in the observance of their religious rites, a caterer disclosed on Sunday in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
Hajiya Sadiya Shuaibu, one of the caterers contracted by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), gave the information to members of the Hajj 2022 National Media Team.
She said that the contract allowed each caterer to prepare foods acceptable to pilgrims, adding that special dishes were also made for diabetic patients.
“As you can see, we take care right from the kind of food we bring. We have preservation for them in order to serve pilgrims fresh diets.
“Similarly, on health matters, NAHCON and the ministry of health of Saudi Arabia must give us certification to operate.
“Also, staff of NAHCON are always with us from the preparations, packaging and distribution of the food to the pilgrims.
“Each meal contains food and beef/kitchen, water, banana or apple. Also, the food is prepared to Nigerian taste. Most of them don’t have to use the spices they brought from home.”
Shuaibu said that the contract allowed her to employ about 108 staff, 45 of whom are Nigerians.
Yusuf Usman, a first time pilgrim from FCT, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the food programme helped him to adjust quickly to the new life in Madinah.
“I enjoyed the meal right from the welcome breakfast prepared for us. Secondly, it saves my spending here and I think it’s more hygienic,” Usman said.
He said he preferred the food quality, instead of the complaints of some pilgrims about the quantity.
“The meal programme has allowed us to concentrate more on the Hajj rites than wasting precious time looking for food,” Usman added.
Alhaji Abdullateef Onimago, Head of the NAHCON Feeding Committee in Madinah, said that service delivery to pilgrims was uppermost to the committee.
He said that all the 2022 Hajj pilgrims were taken care of in the feeding programme of NAHCON.
“A number of caterers have been arranged for the programme. For now it’s only one that has started operations because of the low number of pilgrims on ground.
“The committee members are always at hand in the kitchen to ensure all requirements are met by the caterer in terms of hygiene, quantity and quality of the meals served.”
He said that NAHCON was working round the clock to ensure that all pilgrims from all the states were catered for adequately.
Onimago said that the packaged meals were taken to pilgrims in their hotels and handed over to the state pilgrims officers for direct distribution.
“Each individual pilgrim ratio is given to the respective state officials, who will verify and distribute to their pilgrims. The process is seamless and effective,” he said.
NAHCON had set standards and requirements for the provision of feeding to Nigerian pilgrims for the catering/feeding services.
These include the catering company being duly registered as a corporate entity by the Saudi authorities with a minimum share capital of 500,000 Saudi riyals and at least three years’ experience in feeding Nigerian pilgrims satisfactorily.
The caterers are to also ensure the cleanliness of the environment, ensure that the meal served is in line with the agreed menu in terms of quality and quantity and to ensure timely delivery of the meals to pilgrims.